The city of San Diego is temporarily housing homeless residents at the Convention Center in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

It was the early months of the pandemic when Vincent Malijan, recovering from a stroke, managed to call his family to say he was back in San Diego and needed some help.

Malijan’s family couldn’t offer him a place to live at the time, but they helped him navigate the region’s serpentine bureaucracy to get him back in the system after years of homelessness and secured him a bed at the Convention Center shelter the city was operating. 

Then, just days before he was scheduled to move into a Paradise Hills home with his family, Malijan tested positive for COVID-19. He was admitted to the hospital in which he would spend the final days of his life.

In the latest installment of his new column, Fine City, Jesse Marx explores the life and death of one of the 33 San Diegans who, according to the county, were homeless when they succumbed to COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic.

Malijan came to San Diego after bouncing around the southwest in the years after he was released from a 15-year prison term related to a drug trafficking case in Long Beach. His family, though, is glad to have had the final months with him, when it seemed he was getting back on his feet.

“I could see his remorse, his grief, his sorrow,” his son said. “It was just the way he looked at me. He would cry and get real emotional, like, ‘I wish I could have done more for you.’”

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Police Chief Wants Access to Streetlights Again 

A streetlight camera / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit issued a public plea Wednesday to allow his officers access once again to the city’s streetlight cameras. It came in response to a homicide at the Old Town Station trolley line on New Year’s Day. Relying on footage from an MTS camera, investigators made an arrest earlier this week.

“Unfortunately, we lost some of those cameras and it’s been difficult for us to solve violent cases,” he said, according to NBC7.

Setting aside the fact these are about two different surveillance systems run by different agencies — and the use of one doesn’t necessarily justify the use of another — the City Council last year made clear that it wouldn’t re-authorize funding for the streetlight cameras until stronger rules were in place.

Elected officials approved the first draft of an ordinance more than a year ago after reporting by Voice of San Diego and others showed that the system had been pitched publicly as an environmental and planning good but had evolved into a tool for law enforcement. Police promised to only investigate serious crimes and ended up using them for vandalism and more.

The surveillance ordinance still needs to go through a process known as “meet and confer” in which the heads of the city’s various unions have an opportunity to propose changes. It must then go back to the City Council for further discussion and vote. 

It’s not a simple question anymore of simply flipping a switch. 

In a statement, Mayor Todd Gloria’s office suggested it would be moving ahead soon with a privacy advisory board. That board, also given the initial greenlight by the City Council last year, would bring together various experts to give feedback on the city’s use of technology. 

Speaking of surveillance… inewsource reports that five police departments in San Diego County have been violating state law by sharing license plate reader data with agencies all over the United States. 

In Other News

This Morning Report was written by MacKenzie Elmer and Jesse Marx. It was edited by Megan Wood.

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